Mini reviews

I consume and accumulate more media (DVR, Netflix,, RSS, e-mail newsletters, movie theatres, concerts, plays, the Sunday NYTimes, magazines) than I can write about, so perhaps a few impressions or mini-reviews will prove a more manageable format to clear the logjam in my head.


The Interpreter is cool to the touch, much as I imagine Nicole Kidman's porcelain skin feels. She has a unique beauty, but it is a distancing type of beauty. The camera gazes at her in this movie from up close. She hides behind her bangs (so much so that it becomes a distraction), but even without the bangs, no camera can penetrate her statuesque features.

Sean Penn's character is given a needlessly tragic back story. An actor of Penn's skill is quick to expose such plot contrivances; it's like giving a Yo Yo Ma a metronome for a live performance. His furrowed brow makes for a nice visual contrast to Kidman's flawless complexion, and some of the most interesting scenes are those in which the two of them converse.

The trailer ruins the movie's centerpiece, a cat and mouse game that ends on a New York city bus. Anyone who has seen the trailer knows how it ends. It's a serious movie, with righteous indignation, tears, and impassioned speeches about the dream that was the United Nations. What I wanted more of was Catherine Keener's FBI agent. She receives two lines of note in the movie, and both are zingers.

If The Interpreter had been made by Hitchcock with, say, Cary Grant as the FBI agent and Grace Kelly as the interpreter, sparks would have flown by movie's end. It wasn't, and they don't. The most that Kidman grants Penn is a hug, and that's what the movie gives its audience, a polite hug when we want a hot kiss or a slap in the face.


In the first Fenway Park scene in Fever Pitch, mannequins are clearly visible in the upper right of the screen in the crowd. Not enough extras willing to volunteer to sit at Fenway? Perhaps Red Sox diehards were too appalled at the idea of Jimmy Fallon playing one of them to lend their support. Were my eyes fooling me? Did anyone else see those?

Fallon's line readings, as with his on Saturday Night Live, seem effortless. Not in a good way. He never seems to try all that hard, and it comes across as a rehearsal. Contrast that with Drew Barrymore, who enunciates her thoughts in romantic comedies with the measured deliberation of someone reading a difficult foreign language exercise, as if the precision of her wording is critical to the incantation that will transform one of the many doofuses cast opposite her into an adult. Now that Meg Ryan has been face lifted into oblivion, Drew is America's new movie sweetheart, with her forgiving smile and child-like wonder (see, I've never met her and we're already on a first name basis). Her charm is the opposite of that of a Nicole Kidman. Drew is one of the very few actresses who can be cast opposite a gawky guy like Jimmy Fallon or Adam Sandler and make the audience believe she could actually fall for them. For a while Jennifer Aniston encroached on this territory, but then in real life she married Brad Pitt instead of Tom Green.

The movie has some clever meet-cute banter, and the Red Sox fandom caricatures are tolerable in doses. When the movie makes Fallon's love of the Red Sox the centerpiece of their conflict, though, it's such a reach that I lost all interest. The fans in Fallon's section of Fenway don't feel like real people. They're almost as much mannequins as the actual mannequins I saw on screen, there to recite some expository dialogue for non sports fans who aren't aware of the Red Sox's tragic history.

Of course, the movie would have been far more poetic had the Red Sox actually lost the World Series last year, but me thinks that Red Sox nation will hang on to their memories and kick the movie to the curb.


Last last last Sunday, Ken took me to the concluding game of the Washington Nationals (formerly the Montreal Expos) opening series at RFK Stadium, against the Diamondbacks. RFK Stadium is not going to win any design or aesthetic awards--it's in the vein of Busch Memorial and other concrete flying saucer stadiums built before HOK came along with its red brick "old is new" aesthetic--but it's perfectly suitable for watching baseball. We sat down the first base line, giving us a good view across the stadium at the seats behind third base. When the Nationals rallied to take the lead, the fans in that section started jumping up and down, and that section of the stadium visibly bounced. Why I don't know (temporary bleachers set up in the conversion from football to baseball stadium?) but it's cool.

One of the downsides of the stadium's construction is that the outfield seats are way up above ground level. Most home run balls will fall into uninhabited space behind the outfield wall instead of into a fans' hands.

The stadium wasn't full. It seats over 56,000, so I suspect that good seats will always be available. I don't have any feel for D.C.'s appetite for baseball, but I can't imagine it will be worse than that of the Montreal faithful (though to be fair, much of the blame should be pinned on the old ownership).

My one game there has me suspecting that home runs will be at a premium. A few balls that looked to be crushed died short of the warning track. That's unfortunate for one of my fantasy baseball teams that counts Vidro and Wilkerson among its starters.


Since moving into an apartment with paper-thin walls, I've had to keep the volume on my stereo system down. That means most music I listen to now is piped in from my iPod, whether I'm listening at home on my computer or strolling around town. The Apple earbuds that come with their iPods are nothing special, and they don't fit my ears. For all these reasons and others, I felt justified in investing in Shure E3c Sound Isolating Earphones.

No regrets so far. The E3c's sound a whole lot better than the Apple earbuds and my old over-the-head sports headphones. They're not noise canceling, but they do an amazing job of sealing my ears from external noise, of which there is an abundance in NYC. When I saunter down the sidewalk with the E3c's on and music blasting, all of NYC seems like a massive music video playing out just for me (in which the citizens of NYC shoot condescending stares my way for daring to saunter).

Search the web; lots of online stores carry E3c's, and good deals can be found. No need to buy direct from Shure at full retail price.